MEET ELAINE KAO: Making periods healthier

 

ELAINE KAO

President and owner at Lilli Pads


 

What is at the heart of your business?

 
I make periods healthier one woman at a time.
 

Why did you join a women focussed coworking and wellness community?

 

 

What does thriving look like to you?

 
Working with likeminded individuals who are all dedicated towards their own personal definition of success.

Shecosystem’s core values are openness, community, collaboration, accessibility, sustainability, feminism, and wellness. Which of these resonates most with you and why?

Community is always a key area of development when it comes to business and success. To me, there may be businesses that focus on financial success, but I feel like there is something missing if you cannot give back to the community that has built and developed you.

 

What would you like to give and/or receive from this community?

 

Life is a progressive series of steps: Your future outlook is largely dependent on the consistent habits that you develop today. Often times, social media makes it seem like results and success are instantaneous but that cannot be further from the truth. Real success is rooted in challenges and endeavours that push your mental and intellectual boundaries. There is no success without pain and pain builds character.

 

Tell us one way you integrate self-care into your working life

 
I like going to the spa from time to time. Meditation has been a big theme for me in the past year.

What’s your top piece of advice for other entrepreneurs?

 
Take it one step at a time and don’t give up. Patience pays off in the long run.


 

CONNECT WITH ELAINE

Why I’m Choosing to Close a Successful Coworking Space

I’ve been exploring edges, the overlapping spaces where one thing ends and another begins. Meadow and forest, lake and shoreline. In ecology, an edge, or ecotone, is a zone of incredible biodiversity.

 

It is neither, and both, and something else altogether. Edges are rich with life and potential for novel combinations.

 

This summer is Shecosystem’s edge – not yet closed, but not business as usual. On September 1, I’ll hand back the keys to 703 Bloor and close Shecosystem as a coworking space.

 

Since day one I have been trying to model vulnerability and emotional authenticity in my leadership, and in the same spirit, I want to share what’s behind this transition. This is not an easy lesson in “failing forward” or an announcement of a bold pivot. Simply a story of a very human entrepreneur trying to live her truth.

 

In a business that is all about work-life integration, the decision to close the space is not just about finances. I’ve gathered wisdom from many sources, negotiated, talked to members, and carved out quiet time with nature where I can tune in to myself and to the earth’s lessons.

 

Here are a few of the factors involved in my decision:

 

The rent is going up and my store of energy is running low.

I have things to say that have been drowned out by the noise of daily operations, and values that have been stretched thin by hustling to pay a monthly overhead of nearly $10,000.

I have a sensitive temperament, deep emotions, and high anxiety.

I have a radical vision that is not lining up with the reality of running a brick & mortar business in Toronto.

And I have 36-year-old ovaries a longing to make room in my life to focus on relationships and start a family.

 

There have been offers of help from fierce-hearted people who believe that we can all benefit from this shared vision. I want so badly to lean in to the power of community, but as the sole shareholder, I know that the risks and the responsibilities ultimately fall on my shoulders, and that feels really heavy. So does the thought of radically restructuring Shecosystem’s ownership and governance before this deadline imposed by the lease is up.

 

I have learned to listen to my body’s wisdom, and have noticed how my chest and throat tighten when I feel into what it would take to keep the space open. I felt it even as I typed the last paragraph.

 

One of the core ideas behind Shecosystem is that entrepreneurship is a soul journey. Creating a business is one of the channels through which our culture enables us to deliver our soul’s gifts to the world, in service of the world. It’s a space of inspired creation, mystery, and intuition. It’s also a space where we have to enter the underworld to do battle both with our own shadows and with the cultural constructs that undermine and rob us of joy and wholeness.

In this moment I have been forced to ask myself: will continuing to run a coworking space help me walk further down my soul’s path?

 

Over the last three years, this business has compelled me to work on my inner critic, as well as on my issues with money, privilege and deservedness.

 

It has forced me to grapple more deeply with messily ingrained patriarchal capitalist values like competition, relentless growth, and individual achievement, all the while learning to ask for help and surrender control.

 

It has allowed me to honour my full range of emotions, accept enoughness and imperfection, and value rest and flow.  

 

It has taught me to trust the unknown, work with cycles, and listen to the wisdom that doesn’t come from my head, but from my body, my intuition, and my dreams.

 

But these lessons have been hard won. My identity is getting lost and my energy is stagnating. I do hear notes of my soul’s song in this coworking space, but they’re getting more and more faint.

 

At this pivotal moment, letting go is a test of my ability to untangle my self-worth from the roles and the status that Shecosystem has afforded me. It’s a test of measuring success not just by scale or profit, but by impact and inspiration. It’s a step toward heeding the subtle but persistent call to a quieter, slower, and more embodied life lived in closer relationship with and in deeper service of the natural world.

 

I’ve given the process of shutting down Shecosystem’s coworking space a very glamorous title: Shecompost.

This summer is the breakdown period of the birth-death-rebirth cycle.

 

I’m starting to think that in the metaphor of business as an ecosystem, I care less about the flowers than I do about the soil. Shecosystem as a coworking space at 703 Bloor is a flower  – bright, alluring, and ephemeral. It’s been growing in thin soil, demanding heavy inputs and constant attention.

 

Composting is a transformative act of turning decaying matter into nutrients that are readily available to feed new life. Whatever iteration of Shecosystem sprouts next – if anything – it will grow in richer soil. I have no idea what that will look like yet: breakdown takes time and happens unseen.

 

Shecosystem is an unsustainable business model, but it is not a failure. This is an important distinction.

Nearly every day, someone tells me wholeheartedly that they are grateful this place exists, that it has changed their life, that there is nothing like Shecosystem out there. Member surveys show that we’ve had an impact and have served a unique need in a population that has been marginalized, underrepresented, and not taken seriously by mainstream entrepreneurial culture. We’ve won awards, been recognized by the media and by thought leaders in our field, brought thousands of people together, and helped launch businesses, friendships, and collaborations. It has been a success, and I feel proud.

 

Shecosystem stands for things people believe in and want to rally around:

 

Self-care as part of business strategy.

Showing up with your whole self at work.

Bringing feminine balance and feminist values to the working world.

Building meaningful communities in the workplace.

I can rest in the knowledge that there is no undoing the connections that have been made, the projects that have been initiated, the waves that continue to ripple outward from Shecosystem.

Compost demands a mix of elements, water, oxygen, heat, insects, fungi, plants, and time. I invite the community to join the heap and help release these nutrients!

 

If you love what Shecosystem is, what it has meant to you and to the world, please reach out and let’s talk about how this richness can live on in a different form.I’d love to hear your reflections and stories. Or come spend these last couple of months with us soaking up all the good vibes before we close – there are more memories, connections, and discoveries to be made! Scroll down to learn more about our $100 Unlimited Monthly Membership for July and August.

 

There is a lot to be grateful for, and the chord Shecosystem has struck will continue to resonate with our community’s heartbeat. I invite you to explore the edges with me.

 

With love and tears of gratitude,

Emily Rose 

 

The Summer of Shecompost

We’re closing in September but in the meantime, We have a few months of long and dreamy summer days and I want to make the most of them together. My intention (and I always frame them as questions) is: how can we collaboratively celebrate and evolve Shecosystem as we prepare to close the coworking space?

To honour our core value of accessibility and openness, we’re offering a $100 Unlimited Monthly Membership for July and August – let us know if you’re in!  

 

In addition to regular coworking, this membership includes more programming…we want to seriously raise the vibration before the space is gone! Join us to fill Shecosystem with joy, important conversations, unlikely cross-pollinations, all of life’s realness, and things that you can’t imagine happening anywhere else.

 

We’ll be offering:

 

  • Monday motivation meetups
  • Family Friendly afternoons every Tuesday
  • Wellness breaks and a pot-luck Salad Salon on Wednesdays
  • Member happy hours every Thursday
  • More damn dance parties!

You’ll still be able to focus and get work done, but we also want to create more opportunities to socialize, move, and welcome in our whole selves. After all, most of you have told us repeatedly that you’re here for community first.

 

If there is something you want to offer, let us know!

 

There are lots of places to get quiet work done, but there’s only one Shecosystem and we want to make the most of everything that it is above and beyond being a coworking space.

 

See you this summer!

 


Emily Rose Antflick is Shecosystem’s founder and Chief Community Cultivator. With an MA in Education, Emily spent a decade teaching and creating transformative educational journeys in Canada and internationally before opening Shecosystem. Emily proves that having a singular passion is not the only way to succeed: in addition to being an entrepreneur, she is a Rite of Passage guide, Permaculture Designer and dance facilitator. Emily was a winner of the Startup Canada Women Founders Fund and has been profiled as a Woman of Influence and a local feminist to watch. Contact her at emily@shecosystem.ca.


Women, Weed & Wellness

For millennia before bong hitting bros and the cowboy culture of today’s emerging industry, women were healers and herbalists, using cannabis for menstrual cramps and labour pain. Today, women are sending the stoner stereotype up in smoke.

 

Through advocacy, venture creation, and organizing, women are leading the charge to legitimize and celebrate the healing powers of this female plant that has blossomed worldwide alongside human migration.

 

Last week, Shecosystem brought together a panel of women entrepreneurs to take a look at the industry through a feminist lens and create a safe space to explore the wellness applications of this healing plant. We gathered in a circle, honouring the experience of the diverse crowd – from “cannabis evangelists” to closet consumers, chronic pain sufferers, new moms, industry insiders, and wellness practitioners looking to expand their toolkit.

 

The cannabis-wellness industry is not just for healers and growers. Women are applying their “straight” skills from other industries to make sure that their stories and needs are represented from the kinds of medical research being done to the way products are marketed.

 

According to the Canadian Press, women currently make up only 5 per cent of the board seats at publicly traded marijuana producers. With over 80% of household purchasing decisions and over 90% of healthcare decisions being made by women, we have immense power and can shape this industry by getting involved all the way up the chain.

 

Though their businesses range from an online platform, a dispensary, and event company, the women on our panel shared a similar mission: making space for women’s voices and experiences. Devon Scoble led the panel starting with her experience using cannabis to ease her neuropathic pains, arthritis, and insomnia. As content boss at Hempster, Devon provides education about products and strains and shares recipes, how-to guides, and stories that inspire wellness through healthy cannabis choices.

 

Tania Cyalume, a chemist and cannabis veteran who has been making edibles for medical patients for over 10 years, first became a patient – and advocate – after an accident which resulted in degenerative lumbar disease. Through her work with the feminist, LGBTQ+ positive dispensary Queens of Cannabis and Bloom High Tea Social Club, she has been building community and helping patients feel comfortable asking questions, not to mention creating jobs for women in weed.

 

Melody Hassan is applying her skills from the hospitality industry to cultivate educational, stigma-busting events through her business, Cannabuzz. As a Muslim woman, she struggles with the stigma associated with consumption, but is proudly speaking up about weed’s health and wellness benefits.

 

The evening wrapped up with a cooking demo from Hempster’s Head Chef, Ronnie Fishman – a gorgeous Vietnamese pomelo salad with cannabis infused honey in the dressing (recipe here!). She went over an easy how-to guide for making your own edibles, safe dosing, and food pairing to complement the aromatic terpenes found in different strains.

 

 

With legalization on the horizon, cannabis industry events are looking more and more like mainstream business events. As one attendee remarked, “Where there’s money, there are white guys in suits.”

 

What used to be a subculture of conscious consumers and people on the margins is being flooded by opportunistic players from within the business establishment. An attendee working in the industry noted that she has often been the only woman in the room.

 

People in the audience commented that there is a need for more places where people can ask honest questions and “come out” in a brave space where their experiences are mirrored by the people around them. They shared stories of fighting with doctors and insurance providers, being told they had to try every alternative including surgery and heavy pharmaceuticals before being covered for a medical marijuana prescription. A new mom shamelessly advocated for using cannabis to relax and get some sleep after a long day caring for a toddler and a 3 month-old.

 

 

While the space felt safe and inclusive, questions remained about the equity of the industry. From a feminist perspective, we cannot simply celebrate white women making strides in “rebranding” weed while women of colour continue to deal with the negative consequences associated with cannabis consumption. Black, brown and aboriginal people have been disproportionately criminalized for marijuana related charges in Canada and as weed moves toward legalization, a criminal record means that these people will be shut out of the burgeoning industry.

 

As a white woman in the audience pointed out, she can freely walk down the street smoking a joint, but for a black woman, this would be much riskier. Devon pointed out that she has had a hard time finding women of colour to feature on Hempster – not because they aren’t out there but because of the risks associated with going public.

 

Groups are fighting for amnesty for people with marijuana convictions, as well as for lower barriers to entry into this industry. Cannabis Amnesty is urging parliament to pass legislation granting full pardons for people convicted of possessing 30 grams of marijuana or less. Sensible Ontario is advocating for a mixed public-private model that includes legal places to consume. Women like Abi Roach, Annamaria Enenajor and Jodie Emery are among the loudest voices fighting for policies that make the Canadian cannabis industry accessible and safe.

 

We’re grateful to everyone who came out for this elevated evening and we hope to see more women shaping the industry, policy, and culture of cannabis in Canada!

MEET ANITA ABBASI: Feminist Filmmaker

Anita Abbasi

Filmmaker at www.cinematekkitsch.com


 

What is at the heart of your business?

 
As a creative, my work centres on identity and belonging. I try to find common ground with different peoples in urbanized places, mainly from the perspective of a racialized human.
 

Why did you join a women focussed coworking and wellness community?

 

 

What does thriving look like to you?

Thriving looks like encountering an obstacle in life, acknowledging its presence, recognizing its impact in your progress, not blaming the obstacle in question, rather learning to either tackle it or maneuver around it, without compromising your core values and without jeopardizing the relationships with people who sustain you. To have that want to achieve a goal that seems impossible and learning to find a way to get there that meets the needs of where you are in life is thriving to me. It’s learning to be respectful of your own pace and that of others, as you seek to advance, whatever that may look like, in life.
 

Shecosystem’s core values are openness, community, collaboration, accessibility, sustainability, feminism, and wellness. Which of these resonates most with you and why?

 
Collaboration. All of them resonate with me, but collaboration is something as a filmmaker I must constantly hone, foster and be open to. As someone who spends a large amount of time conceiving and writing a work alone, I am constantly reminding myself that filmmaking is a collaborative enterprise, a group of people, with different skills & backgrounds, joining forces towards a unified goal.
 

Tell us one way you integrate self-care into your working life

 
I try to go easy on myself when things go awry or if they simply don’t go my way. I was raised in a rather strict household that placed pressure on me to succeed in a very specific way. The concept of showing compassion to oneself may seem like a no-brainer, but it was a learning curve for someone like me.
 

What’s your top piece of advice for other entrepreneurs?

 
Try not to be so precious with your work, be open to the possibility that it needs to be reworked several times and learn to listen to others, who get what it is you are trying to do or want to get it.


 

CONNECT WITH ANITA!

CREATRIX | For Talia Johnson, Sensitivity training and Sh*t Disturbing go Hand in Hand

Talia Johnson’s story is one hell of an inspirational read. A trans-woman working as a “sensitivity editor” primarily around queer, trans, and autism related issues, Talia wrote a poem documenting her experience training to be a Kohenet Jewish Priestess that is part of an anthology that has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.

Talia is autistic and navigates living with chronic pain and is an advocate for defining a life that fits the needs of your body, mind, and soul. She shares her story with us below.

 

by Annisha Lashand


 

What identities do you inhabit?

 
Over the years I have embodied many identities. The ones that are current are: A woman, trans/transgender, queer, lesbian, autistic, spoonie/disabled (using social model), Jewish, feminist, and shit disturber.

What is your work in the world?

At its core, I bridge three primary areas, faith/religion/spirituality, mental health, and queer/trans/LGBTTQIA+. I am a writer, poet, sensitivity editor, public speaker, blogger, activist, educator, workshop facilitator, ritual leader, service leader, mentor, coach, and more.

My sensitivity editing is primarily around queer and trans issues, as well as from an autistic perspective. I’m only one person, and don’t represent all trans, queer, and/or autistic people. I offer these services to writers, publishers, and anyone with content that talks about these issues, perspectives, and/or has  characters that fall into one or more of these groups.

Workshop facilitation, public speaking, and education tend to fall into one category. When I provide these services what I present, how I present it, and the discussions that I facilitate are all based on the needs of the group I am working with. Going over basic level information with a group that has already done that work is not helpful. At the same time, not doing the basic work and jumping to advanced topics does not help those who have not done the initial basic work and education.

Ritual leadership and service leadership encompasses a wide range of practices and services. I have led services for larger groups, such as a Friday evening Kaballat Shabatt service, to a ritual for someone about to go for Gender Congruency/Confirmation Surgery (GCS). Again, the service or ritual is designed with the needs of the community or individual in mind. Rituals to mark important points in one’s life are deeply meaningful for many people. When planning rituals for a person or small group, the planning and writing of the ritual is made in full discussion with them. These rituals focus on the beliefs and needs of the individual or group.

My writing and poetry is an offshoot of my work and is informed by my own lived experiences, as well as what I have witnessed through my work and ongoing reading. My current large poetry project is to write poems based on the Netivot, or Archetypes, that are part of the studies and learning in the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute program. 

The Novel I am writing is an SF novel that takes place in the mid twenty-first century and explores what a theocracy based on conservative evangelical Christian theology would look like. My non-fiction project is a sort of memoir using my blog posts over the past nine years as its base. It discusses wider queer, trans, and autistic issues using my own experience as the focal point.
 

Tell us about the “WHY” that drives your business.

 
Any work I do has to have meaning for myself and others. I have never fit in with corporate culture, to a point where I’ve never had a traditional full-time job. In order for me to work best my brain needs to be engaged, and have multiple things to be working on. At the core of what I do is the idea that I can help make the world a slightly better place and help people with their struggles.
 

So many of us learn from each other’s processes, can you share a little about the steps you took to get started?

 
In the past, I have tried to use “self-help” books and guides to starting a business, managing work, etc. For me, they were all mostly useless. They don’t work the way my brain works. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People sent me running in the opposite direction. After finishing my undergraduate work and moving back to Toronto I needed time to work on my health. I took the time I needed, but had to get back to doing things. To get started I examined where I was at physically, mentally, and spiritually. With this baseline I gave myself permission to do what I can do and redefined what “success” means for me.

 

If work is a journey of the soul, what is the most important way your soul has developed through your work?

 
I would say that my soul informs the work I do, and is thus further shaped by interactions with people and meaningful work. Getting out of IT was probably the single healthiest decision I made for my soul when it comes to my work in the world.
 

What does being a feminist entrepreneur mean to you?

 
Being a feminist is part of my core being. I was raised as a feminist, something unusual in the late 70s and 80s. My mum was, and still is, a grassroots feminist and has more academic understandings of it as well. In my work this expresses itself through how I approach the work. I examine things, and act through a mindset of being aware of the nuances and complexities of issues. This means being constantly aware of my own perspectives, biases, and internalized crap. I am white, I know that systemic racism shaped my perspectives. To me part of being feminist is consistently challenging myself to do better, to be aware when I screw up, and do better. Everybody fucks up, some people make it a lifestyle choice. Don’t make it a lifestyle choice. Acknowledging when one messes up is difficult, I try to be honest with myself and others when I do, and take appropriate actions to avoid it in future.

 

Tell us about a collaboration, connection or experience Shecosystem has facilitated for you.

 
With most of my work being independent, and having chronic pain, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and not leave the house. Working at Shecosystem allows me to more easily connect with others and gets me out of the house. For me, at the moment, this is critical for my own work and well-being.

 

What mindset, mantra, or truth about business/entrepreneurship has helped you along the way?

 
There’s no one right way to do it. To set my own definitions for success, and to allow myself to do what I can do, and not beat myself up if I have to turn something down because my health won’t allow it, or if it doesn’t align with my values. I am constantly working to not overthink, and not overthink my overthinking.

 

We’re all about celebrating each other at Shecosystem, care to share an accomplishment with us?

 
Does getting out of bed count? Seriously, though, sometimes that is an achievement in and of itself when one has chronic health problems/chronic illness, and/or mental health struggles. All of which get intertwined.

Being still alive counts as an achievement as well. The suicide rate for trans people is almost 50% with serious ideation higher than 80%.

My big point of brag and accomplishment at the moment is that my poem, “Holy Love” is part of the anthology, Resilience: surviving in the face of everything, that has been nominated as a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award.

 

 

Connect with Talia at taliacjohnson.ca or on facebook.

 

Check out Talia’s online course starting later this month, Writing Trans Topics & Characters

 

Read “Holy Love” in The Resilience Anthology 

 


 

CREATRIX is a blog from Shecosystem highlighting the people in our community who are giving life to new ideas and innovative businesses. We are the authors of our own identity. Each of us draws from deep, generative wellsprings of inspiration, and we have wisdom to share.

 

ANNISHA LASHAND

Freelance Writer | Editor | Social Media Manager | Brand Strategist Website Builder | Inbound Marketer | Digital Guru
ANNISHA LASHAND

Freelance Writer | Editor | Social Media Manager | Brand Strategist Website Builder | Inbound Marketer | Digital Guru

MEET ALEXANDRA COLLAS: A bit of Peruvian flow in TO

Alexandra Collas

Founder, Owner at www.peruflow.ca


 

What is at the heart of your business?

Peru Flow’s mission is to re-ignite the creative fire of educational and professional communities through 4 joyful practices. Our 4 arts based program is for: new Mothers, children, and professionals finding themselves on crossroads.   Peru Flow 4 Arts helps clients tap into their innermost creative projects and goals through mindfulness, nature teachings, art programs, and authentic movement practices. In a world filled with demands and information overload, we facilitate practices for self-regulation, and wellness to build clarity of purpose.

Our vision is born out of the necessity to foster somatic or, body centred education. Our value stands in promoting tools for wellness, self-awareness, and reflection.

We share a creative wisdom path tool box for clients in order for them to meet and understand the power of their true north and direction.

Why did you join a women focussed coworking and wellness community?

 

 

What does thriving look like to you?

Happiness, Content, positive time-management, and attitude towards life. Creating and building your own definition of success.

Shecosystem’s core values are openness, community, collaboration, accessibility, sustainability, feminism, and wellness. Which of these resonates most with you and why?

Openess 🙂 Openess speaks to me because it is the light that leads to transformation and growth.  Coming to Canada at 18 without knowing anyone, I have always seen my openness as a blessing in my path.  I see openess as round and infinite, almost like a tunnel where there is always a away out for transformation and growth.

What do you wish to give and/or receive from this community?

I wish to share what Peru Flow offers in workshops, floral bath, and unique creations.

Tell us one way you integrate self-care into your working life
 

Practicing Mindfulness and frequent pauses.

What’s your top piece of advice for other entrepreneurs?

Believe in your light and share it no matter what.

Anything else we should know about you?

 

I love to go for runs in the park, to hike, and do nature walks. I love nature and am looking to do picnics in parks this spring I love to make Peruvian food!… anyone interested in joining? 🙂

 

CONNECT WITH ALEXANDRA!

 

CREATRIX | Or Har-Gil

Or Har-Gil is an Art Therapist who works to help people express and embrace their whole, imperfect, authentic selves. Or starts her day by walking her dog, drinking tea and choosing a tarot card from a crystal laden altar near her desk. She grounds herself with some stretching, pulls a card and journals on any questions that arise, or guidance the card can offer for her day.

Or works from a space of honouring wholeness over perfection and values connection and collaboration— it is, afterall, how she met Emily and became one of the first members of Shecosystem once it opened in 2016.

Or discusses her journey towards Art Therapy and how she is devoted to running her business with feminist values that support and celebrate women. Read my interview with Or below.

By Annisha Lashand

 

What is your work in the world and how are you innovating?

 

As an Art Therapist, I use art and creativity as tools for helping people explore and witness their inner landscape. I combine that with elements of mindful self-compassion and narrative therapy to help people relate to themselves in kinder and more loving ways.

I’m innovating in small, ongoing ways by weaving new ideas or approaches into my work, testing them out, and seeking feedback to help me learn and evolve my offerings. I’ve always been a big reader and learner, so part of the fun for me is connecting the dots between different concepts and trying to apply them to my work.

 

So many of us learn from each other’s processes, can you share a little about the steps you took to get started?

 

I started small, running my first workshops while I was still working in a full-time job. That took a lot of encouragement and support from my husband and friends, because it felt like a huge step at the time. But it allowed me to get my idea into the world in a way that felt manageable, and to see that I already had a lot of the skills I needed to do what I wanted to do. It gave me the confidence to keep pursuing this path, and some outside confirmation that there was interest in what I had to offer.

 

If work is a journey of the soul, what is the most important way your soul has developed through your work?

 

Probably the biggest way my soul has developed is in becoming more compassionate towards myself. I’m a recovering perfectionist, which means that my inner monologue was often incredibly harsh and that my fear of failure and judgment kept me from doing, saying, and going after the things I really wanted.

Having to consistently put myself out there to keep my business going has required me to drop the idea that everything I do has to be (or can be) perfect…and even change my mind that perfection is such a worthwhile goal anyway. I’ve come to be a lot more concerned with creating content and offerings that are real and vulnerable, that express my soul, and that show people that being your whole, messy, human self is way more interesting and beautiful than a two-dimensional illusion of perfection.

 

What does being a feminist entrepreneur mean to you?

 

Being a feminist entrepreneur means running my business in way that aligns with my values: compassion for self and others, authentic and brave self-expression, and meaningful connection.

It means supporting the sh*t out of other women entrepreneurs by hiring them, collaborating with them, and amplifying their work. It means believing that there’s more than enough for everyone, and that being generous and loving is not only the “nice” thing to do, but the thing that’s going to build a thriving business and community for all of us.

Importantly, it also means staying humble and being open to learn about how I can do better in terms of how I communicate about my work and how I make my work accessible to people. It means reflecting on how my privilege allows me to do this work and to move through the world in ways that others cannot and doing what I can to acknowledge and minimize those gaps.  

 

 

Tell us about a collaboration, connection or experience Shecosystem has facilitated for you…doesn’t have to be business oriented!

 

So many connections, experiences and collaborations! I was super lucky to find Shecosystem early on in my journey, when Emily was hosting co-working and wellness meetups at Artscape. Finding a community of supportive, badass women at different stages of their life and business helped normalize what I was going through, reassure me that I wasn’t a total mess up, and introduced me to people, tools, and systems that I otherwise wouldn’t have found.

 

What mindset, mantra, or truth about business/entrepreneurship has helped you along the way?

 

Progress, not perfection. It’s better to get a rough version of your concept out there (whether it’s a website, a program, a workshop…), get real world input on it and make changes, than to spend ages creating the ‘perfect’ version of that thing and never getting it out there, or taking too long, at which point it’s irrelevant or doesn’t meet a need.

 

Take a moment to brag – we’re all about celebrating each other, share an accomplishment with us!

 

I’m proud of running my business in a way that makes space for the fullness of my humanity, and the humanity of my clients and collaborators. That resists the idea that being successful is only measured by money and productivity. That creates spaces for self-expression, for feeling all of our feelings, and for lifting each other up.

 

Check Or out at www.orhargil.com

Follow her at @orhargil  on instagram & @orhargilarttherapy on Facebook!


 

CREATRIX is a blog from Shecosystem highlighting the people in our community who are giving life to new ideas and innovative businesses. We are the authors of our own identity. Each of us draws from deep, generative wellsprings of inspiration, and we have wisdom to share.

 

ANNISHA LASHAND

Freelance Writer | Editor | Social Media Manager | Brand Strategist Website Builder | Inbound Marketer | Digital Guru
ANNISHA LASHAND

Freelance Writer | Editor | Social Media Manager | Brand Strategist Website Builder | Inbound Marketer | Digital Guru

Meet Rob Shirkey: Hopeful Climate Advocate

Rob Shirkey

Business:  Executive Director at Our Horizon 


What is at the heart of your business?

Engaging governments to pass legislation that requires climate change & air pollution warnings for gas pumps. The concept helps to close the ‘experiential gap’ between our use of fossil fuels and their impacts to create greater social impetus to address climate change.

The “heart” of the initiative includes transparency, disclosure, honesty, bravery in confronting challenge, growth through discomfort, etc. There’s a James Baldwin quote that I have on our homepage that I think rings true: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” That’s what I’m trying to make us collectively do through this advocacy. You can learn more at www.ourhorizon.org.

 

Why did you join a women’s coworking and wellness community?

I’m writing a book about my organization’s advocacy and my personal journey in the environmental sector. I worked out of Shecosystem for a week last fall and found it was a great workspace for quiet writing. I also like how the opening and closing circles provide bookends for the workday and how the 9-6 operating hours create a time constraint that results in a more focused workday. It’s an ideal place for writing and I’m grateful to be here for the next few months.

 

What does thriving look like for you?

I’m not sure but I think hope might be a requisite element; it’s hard to thrive without it. Climate advocacy and government engagement can be pretty discouraging at times and it’s easy to become burnt out. Lately, I’ve been trying to ask myself “What makes me feel hopeful?” and consciously dial into that. A hopeful Rob is usually a more thriving Rob.

 

Tell us one way you integrate self-care into your working life:

Fun tip: I have lockbox with a timer on it at home that I put my phone in during the evening, just before bed (thekitchensafe.com). I’ve even drilled a hole through it so I can still charge it at night. It’s a simple way of limiting access to what can otherwise be an addictive waste of time and it makes it easier to focus on activities that add value to my quality of life. Let me know if you have any Qs about this gizmo! 🙂

 

Anything else we should know about you?

Recovering lawyer. Puppy aficionado. Once rode my bicycle across Canada!


 

CONNECT WITH ROB!

Website: ourhorizon.com

LinkedIn: Robert Shirkey

 

First Generation Feminist

By Marla Raymundo

 

Growing up as first generation Canadian, I was always encouraged to pursue a professional career as either a nurse, doctor, lawyer or accountant. I had this linear perception of “success” and thought that it only came from careers related to science, law or business. These jobs provided financial stability, which I was under the impression was the key to happiness and satisfaction. Despite my lack of interest in anything related to math or science, I came into University assuming I would spend four years pursuing my undergraduate degree in Psychology.

University granted me the freedom to choose my courses and create my own timetable without the usual bias or guidance from my parents. I would have never predicted that I would switch majors entirely from science to a major in Women and Gender studies after taking the intro course as an elective in my first year. To my surprise, “feminism transformed the way I viewed the world and the systems which existed to oppress myself and the others around me.” I had been desensitized to the inequities that occured on a daily basis and despite being socialized to comply, I became intrigued with the idea of questioning the institutions which drove society. This new awareness allowed me to critique and analyze my actions in a new way.

I’m now in my final year at U of T which has led me to Shecosystem as part of a 6 month co-op program, embedding myself in a feminist organization to have a hands-on experience with a business that values inclusiveness, visibility and empowerment in the local community.  

My time at Shecosystem has allowed me to observe and bask in an environment where feminism thrives and is put into practice daily. Shecosystem stays true to their values and my Fridays consist of being surrounded by motivating, inspiring and empowering entrepreneurs who genuinely enjoy the work they do.

It wasn’t until Emily asked me to take part in the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum where I came to the realization of how feminism can truly pilot social change. In the classroom we are taught that the concept of feminism is not fixed and is constantly evolving to current issues, and this was certainly true at the EFF.

The conference introduced a new concept of feminism I was unfamiliar with. Crafted and defined by Dr. Barbara Orser and Catherine Elliot, the authors of Feminine Capital: Unlocking the Power of Women Entrepreneurs, the term Entrepreneurial Feminism can be described as enacting feminist values within venture creation and entrepreneurship policy. Prior to the conference, I was unaware of the power differentials embedded within the heteronormative system of entrepreneurship. I had always assumed that gender equality through ethical capitalism was the norm.

Entrepreneurial Feminism is a new movement, a new way to do business, and ensures equity-based outcomes for females, trans, queer, women and women-identified entrepreneurs alike.

The workshops and performances held throughout the day by entrepreneurs from across North America demonstrated how entrepreneurial feminism can produce “success” through passion and wellness. One of the speakers, Rania Younes, co-founder of WelcomeHomeTo, held a workshop on how the current settlement system fails newcomers, with many having difficulty adjusting and seeking employment upon arrival to Canada. Those frustrations have since resulted in the creation of The Newcomer Kitchen in Toronto, which is a non-profit organization that invites Syrian refugee women into a space where they mingle, cook and sell cultural foods. The kitchen encourages integration through socialization and interactions with customers and members of the community. Despite the barriers that the Syrian refugee women face, the kitchen became a way for the women to cope with homesickness while generating an income to support their families.

Success can be achieved through feminist business models, self-regulation, non-hierarchical leadership roles, collaboration and operational practices deterring from the heteronormative model.

Entrepreneurial Feminism and feminist capital contribute to a new movement which changes the way entrepreneurs run their businesses. My experience at the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum has since shaped and altered my personal definition of success. It was inspiring being surrounded by such a diverse groups of entrepreneurs who despite challenging the patriarchal system are able to thrive, making themselves visible and paving their own way in the competitive market!

Now I spend my days dreaming away and cultivating entrepreneurial ideas as I approach graduation and the dreaded “real world.” I’ve come to the realization that I can no longer hide behind my student status and the safety of the routine I became too comfortable and familiar with.

Shecosystem and Entrepreneurial feminism give me the hope that I can thrive creating my own path!

 

READ MORE

Entrepreneurial Innovation and Full Moon Illumination | March at Shecosystem

March is born in fullness, a round moon mirroring the sunbeams of springtime. Pregnant with promise, hiding nothing of herself, she illuminates the path to rebirth. It has been a long winter gathering our strength underground, and we are ready to spring into action.

 

Here are a few of the things that are sparking hope in me this March…


International Women’s Day is next week, and we’ll be marking it on March 8 with WombSpace: an afternoon of learning, healing and community.

 

We’ve chosen to host our event during the day, so that you can spend your evening at one of the many panels, screenings, and celebrations happening around town. Join us from 2-6PM for a talking circle, reiki from Daily Magic, readings from Uplifting Tarot, and a talk on menstrual wellness from Amanda Laird – all in support of our neighbour Sistering. Check out our other top picks for IWD here.


There is a greater momentum than ever before around women’s entrepreneurship in Canada.

This week’s federal budget promised an extra $100 million over five years to women’s organizations through the Ministry for the Status of Women (now an official Department of the Government of Canada), plus  $1.4 billion of financing opportunities for women-led ventures through the Business Development Bank of Canada.  It also takes steps to promote equal sharing of parental responsibilities, close the wage gap, support women in the trades, and address gender-based violence.

 

The gender lens was applied to spending decisions, and the government aims to stay accountable through Canada’s Gender Results Framework: a tool to measure how these budget items translate into a more equitable society. With this year’s budget, Canada is making  “a conscious effort to understand how decisions affect different people differently, with a view to allocating government resources more equitably and efficiently.”


In other promising news, a couple of weeks ago a report came out from BMO and Carleton University looking at women entrepreneurs and Canada’s innovation landscape.

 

The narrow definition of innovation is something that has bothered me since I started working with women entrepreneurs. Most of Shecosystem’s members – and a full 90% of women entrepreneurs (TD Economics, 2015) – are running businesses in the service sector. With most resources going toward supporting high growth businesses innovating in science and tech, women are being left out of the innovation agenda.

 

We know this already.  Last June, at the SheEO/City of Toronto Women’s Entrepreneurship Forum (coming up again next Friday!), I listened in one session as one woman after another spoke up about how incubators, funding opportunities, and training programs are not speaking to them or addressing their needs as micro-businesses in the service sector. This report spells out recommendations for governments, financial institutions and women entrepreneurs themselves to address challenges – from access to capital, grants, incubators and networks, to ageism, sexual harassment, and gaps in training and mentoring.

 

There is promise in this report loudly declaring that we need to broaden the way we define innovation to be more inclusive of women’s innovations. The report quotes the OECD’s definition: “[a]n innovation is the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or process, a new marketing method, or a new organizational method in business practices, workplace organization or external relations.”  

It also notes that, “because women’s motivation in starting a business is often to better integrate their professional and personal lives, women tend also to innovate in the management of their businesses…they implement more informal, more participative and more horizontal organizations based on teamwork.”

Finally, the report celebrates the fact that women led ventures tend to be “vision-led,” creating social innovation that can benefit their communities.

 

I asked women in our community to own the ways their businesses are innovating. Here are a few of their responses:

“The initiative I’m working on, Disaster Pet Locator is completely directed at social good in three areas: Mental Health, Animal Welfare, Disaster Relief and all using technology and human resources.” (Julia Moreno Perri)

“I developed a framework to help companies understand how to engage their employees and sustain engagement over the long-term. I published a book based on it…I don’t think consultants get much credit for the new ideas and processes we develop for our clients.” (Corina Walsh)

“We are mitigating the risks involved in delegating to offshore virtual assistants while ensuring that we are not using the people on our team, but to the contrary, creates sustainable opportunities that mean wins for everyone.” (Katrina McKay)


In the spirit of promoting women’s innovation, we launched a new blog this week: CREATRIX.


CREATRIX highlights the people in our coworking community who are giving life to new ideas and new businesses. Check out our first post featuring Sulafa Silim, founder of Dawa Apothecary. Sulafa roots equity throughout her work, creating safe and accessible wellness spaces where women of colour can  “have conversations about the real challenges they’re experiencing. Talking about anti-black oppression, or shadism within people of colour. Talking about perceptions of each other. We’re having those hard hitting conversations.”

 


 

May tonight’s full moon in Virgo shine a light on where you need to focus your energy this Spring, which seeds to water…as @mysticmamma writes “Virgo is the healer within, reminding us to embody our Spirit so we can bring about forth real change in our lives for the benefit of all. Her medicine is love in service, and her practical magic helps us streamline our directive so we can focus on how best to be in service of our collective healing.”??

Spend some time journalling, meditating, or doing any other practice that helps you tune into your intuition to fuel your innovative force! ???

I hope to see you at our WombSpace gathering on International Women’s Day or at one of our other events this March. Check out our whole calendar here.

Sending you full moon love,

Emily Rose

 


Emily Rose Antflick is Shecosystem’s founder and Chief Community Cultivator. Her work stems from a feminine paradigm that values collaboration, emotional authenticity, and work-life integration.

With an M.A. in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, Emily spent a decade teaching and creating transformative educational journeys for youth before turning her attention to helping women like herself get unstuck and cultivate heart-centred communities that empower them to heal and whole themselves and the world.

Emily is the Community Leader of G Day for Girls Toronto. She is a certified Permaculture Designer, Dance Our Way Home facilitator, and Rite of Passage Guide.